Ottawa JazzWorks is an Ottawa-based not-for-profit jazz education organization, with 90 per cent of participants drawn from the Ottawa region. JazzWorks began as a small artists’ collaborative and has thrived with the organizational and logistical help of a group of dedicated Ottawa jazz supporters and musicians. For the past 17 years, JazzWorks has presented jazz educational activities such as the intensive annual three-day Jazz Workshop and jam sessions open to local jazz musicians.
JazzWorks has also presented a Master Class Series in partnership with the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage and the Ottawa bassist John Geggie.
JazzWorks began in 1994 with the original members of the celebrated Ottawa-based jazz quartet Chelsea Bridge (Rob Frayne, Tena Palmer, John Geggie and Jean Martin) plus Judy Humenick, an Ottawa flutist, music educator and arts advocate. In creating the JazzWorks weekend workshop, the goal was to present a jazz camp with a difference, a workshop focused on local adult jazz musicians. The educational model of JazzWorks concentrates on teaching adult and advanced high school jazz musicians in small group/jazz combo performance. This approach assists participants in developing the skills to create their own combos and perform in public venues.
Since that initial workshop/camp at Christie Lake Camp, near Perth, Ontario participation has grown steadily. In 2006, JazzWorks moved to the CAMMAC facility at Lac MacDonald in Quebec, which features roomier living quarters and much improved musical facilities. In 2009, the three-day JazzWorks workshop involved 16 faculty and 93 participants ranging in age from 14 to 82. In 2007, the Jazz Camp program was expanded to include a Composers' Symposium, under which participants were able to develop their original compositions in collaboration with faculty and to have those compositions performed at the JazzWorks closing concert.
Some of the 1994 core faculty continues, including Rob Frayne (saxophones). Judy Humenick continues as president of JazzWorks and co-ordinator of the jazz camp. The excellent continuing faculty, drawn from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, includes Jim Lewis, trumpet, Dave Restivo and Nancy Walker, piano, Christine Duncan and Julie Michels, voice, Kevin Barrett and Kim Ratcliffe, guitar, all from Toronto, plus Remi Bolduc, alto sax and Frank Lozano, tenor sax, from Montreal and Ottawa guitarist Garry Elliott.
Over the years, many other excellent Canadian musicians have participated as Jazz Workshop faculty. These include pianists Gordon Webster and Craig Harley, guitarist Justin Haynes, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, trombonist William Carn, percussionists Aldo Mazza and Rick Shadrach Lazar and bassist Kieran Overs. As well, JazzWorks has been able to attract distinguished guest faculty members from the U.S., including trombonist Bret Zvacek, the legendary trumpeter Floyd Standifer Jr. (now deceased) and leading New York saxophonist/composers Donny McCaslin and Ted Nash.
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Several Jazz Workshop participants have gone on to fame in the Canadian jazz world, including vocalist Kellylee Evans and pianist Chris Donnelly, both recent Juno Award nominees. Others have gone on to study at prestigious jazz institutes in New York and Boston. But JazzWorks is equally proud of the dozens of “campers” who perform regularly in the jazz venues of Ottawa and area. Many of the Ottawa jazz musicians who attended the very first workshop still attend on a regular basis, and plan their summer schedules around the workshop. During the “off-season,” they meet regularly and perform at monthly jam sessions sponsored by JazzWorks.
The steady growth of participation and the on-going, enthusiastic response to JazzWorks from the Ottawa jazz community and beyond confirms our belief that JazzWorks has created a unique niche in jazz education.